China boosts military spending in face of ‘growing’ threats

- Advertisement -

China said on Sunday that its military spending would rise at its fastest pace in four years, warning in its rubber-stamp parliament session of “growing” threats from abroad that Xi Jinping will hand over as the third term president.

- Advertisement -

The increase in the world’s second-largest defense budget came as Beijing announced an economic growth target for this year of around 5 percent, the slowest in decades.

- Advertisement -

The country’s planned budget for the year puts defense spending at 1.55 trillion yuan ($225 billion), a 7.2 percent increase and the fastest increase since 2019. It officially grew by 7.1 percent last year.

Outgoing Premier Li Keqiang told delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC) that “external efforts to suppress and control China are increasing”.

- Advertisement -

“The armed forces must step up military training and preparations across the board,” he said as he presented the government’s annual work report to thousands of delegates at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

He added that the army should “devote maximum energy to training in combat situations, and… strengthen military function in all directions and domains”.

China’s defense spending is still lower than that of the United States, which has allocated $800 billion to its military this year.

But analysts say Beijing spends much more than officially declared amounts.

Spending has increased during a low point in relations between China and the United States.

Beijing and Washington have clashed over trade, human rights and other issues in recent years, but ties were further strained after the US shot down a Chinese balloon last month that it said was a surveillance balloon. was being used for

Top US officials have also repeatedly warned that China could attack Taiwan in the coming years, pointing to Beijing’s increasingly assertive military maneuvers around the autonomous island, which it claims as its territory and claims. What is determined to bring under your control?

Niklas Svanström, director of the Stockholm-based non-profit Institute for Security and Development Policy, said Beijing appeared to be “investing in its ability to occupy Taiwan and keep the US out of the region”.

But James Char, a China military expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, pointed out that many countries across Asia are increasing their defense spending, driven by “their relative risk perceptions of the regional security landscape.” are

‘Permanent Recovery’

Experts expect few surprises at this week’s carefully choreographed NPC, in which thousands of politicians from across China will vote on laws and personnel changes already approved by the ruling Communist Party (CCP). Coming to put.

China grew by just three percent last year after Sunday’s conservative economic targets, largely missing its 5.5 percent target as the economy strains under the effects of strict Covid-19 containment policies and the property crisis. was

“The growth target came in at the low end of market expectations. But it should be taken as the growth target the government is willing to tolerate,” said Xavi Zhang, president and chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. “

“Given the very low base of economic activity last year, growth is unlikely to fall below five percent.”

In his speech, Li said in a rousing tone that China’s economy is “on the path to steady recovery and showing great potential and momentum for further development”.

He praised Beijing’s growth-suppressing Covid curbs — which were abruptly abandoned late last year — and “effective and well-coordinated” economic and social development.

Alfred Mulvan Wu, an associate professor at the University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said the continued increase in defense spending despite subdued economic expectations shows that “security is much more important to national leadership now than ever before.” is important”.

“It is also, to some extent, more important than economic growth,” he told AFP.

Xi Jinping’s dominance

Also high on the NPC’s agenda will be Xi’s reappointment as president on Friday, when he will serve another five years as party and military chief – the two most important leadership positions in Chinese politics – in October. In the upcoming Congress.

Since then, the 69-year-old Xi’s leadership has faced unexpected challenges and scrutiny, with protests over his zero-covid policy and the subsequent toppling of the deadly coronavirus surging.

But those issues are almost certain to be avoided at this week’s Beijing conclave, which will also see Li Qiang, a Xi confidant and former Shanghai party chief, unveiled as the new premier.

According to state media reports, the NPC delegates – and the “Political Consultative Conference” (CPPCC) starting on Saturday – will also discuss issues ranging from economic recovery to improving sex education in schools.

The meetings serve as a forum for attendees to present pet projects, but they have little say in the broader questions of how China is run.

- Advertisement -

Hot Topics

Related Articles